on Hebrews 8 :8
For finding fault with them - The meaning is evidently this: God, in order to show that the first covenant was inefficient, saith to them, the Israelites, Behold, the days come when I will make a new covenant, etc. He found fault with the covenant, and addressed the people concerning his purpose of giving another covenant, that should be such as the necessities of mankind required. As this place refers to Jeremiah 31:31-34, the words finding fault with them may refer to the Jewish people, of whom the Lord complains that they had broken his covenant though he was a husband to them. See below.
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - That is, with all the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob. This is thought to be a promise of the conversion of all the Jews to Christianity; both of the lost tribes, and of those who are known to exist in Asiatic and European countries.
on Hebrews 8 :8
For finding fault with them - Or rather, "finding fault, he says to them." The difference is only in the punctuation, and this change is required by the passage itself. This is commonly interpreted as meaning that the fault was not found with "them" - that is, with the Jewish people, for they had had nothing to do in giving the covenant, but "with the covenant itself." "Stating its defects, he had said to them that he would give them one more perfect, and of which that was only preparatory." So Grotius, Stuart, Rosenmuller, and Erasmus understand it. Doddridge, Koppe, and many others understand it as it is in our translation, as implying that the fault was found with the people, and they refer to the passage quoted from Jeremiah for proof, where the complaint is of the people. The Greek may bear either construction; but may we not adopt a somewhat different interpretation still?
May not this be the meaning? For using the language of complaint, or language that implied that there was defect or error, he speaks of another covenant. According to this, the idea would be, not that he found fault specifically either with the covenant or the people, but generally that he used language which implied that there was defect somewhere when he promised another and a better covenant. The word rendered "finding fault" properly means to censure, or to blame. It is rendered in Mark 7:2, "they found fault," to wit, with those who ate with unwashed hands; in Romans 9:19, "why doth he yet find fault?" It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, It is language used where wrong has been done; where there is ground of complaint; where it is desirable that there should be a change. In the passage here quoted from Jeremiah, it is not expressly stated that God found fault either with the covenant or with the people, but that he promised that he would give another covenant, and that it should be "different" from what he gave them when they came out of Egypt - implying that there was defect in that, or that it was not "faultless." The whole meaning is, that there was a deficiency which the giving of a new covenant would remove.
He saith - In Jeremiah 31:31-34. The apostle has not quoted the passage literally as it is in the Hebrew, but he has retained the substance, and the sense is not essentially varied. The quotation appears to have been made partly from the Septuagint, and partly from memory. This often occurs in the New Testament.
Behold - This particle is designed to call attention to what was about to be said as important, or as having some special claim to notice. It is of very frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, being much more freely used by the sacred writers than it is in the classic authors.
The days come - The time is coming. This refers doubtless to the times of the Messiah. Phrases such as these, "in the last days," "in after times," and "the time is coming," are often used in the Old Testament to denote the last dispensation of the world - the dispensation when the affairs of the world would be wound up; see the phrase explained in the Hebrews 1:2 note, and Isaiah 2:2 note. There can be no doubt that as it is used by Jeremiah it refers to the times of the gospel.
When I will make a new covenant - A covenant that shall contemplate somewhat different ends; that shall have different conditions, and that shall be more effective in restraining from sin. The word "covenant" here refers to the arrangement, plan, or dispensation into which he would enter in his dealings with people. On the meaning of the word, see the Acts 7:8 note, and Hebrews 9:16-17 notes. The word "covenant" with us commonly denotes a compact or agreement between two parties that are equal, and who are free to enter into the agreement or not. In this sense, of course, it cannot be used in relation to the arrangement which God makes with man. There is:
(1) no equality between them, and,
(2) man is not at liberty to reject any proposal which God shall make.
The word, therefore, is used in a more general sense, and more in accordance with the original meaning of the Greek word. It has been above remarked (see the notes on Hebrews 8:6), that the "proper" word to denote "covenant," or "compact" - συνθηκη sunthēkē - "syntheke" - is never used either in the Septuagint or in the New Testament - another word - διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - being carefully employed. Whether the reason there suggested for the adoption of this word in the Septuagint be the real one or not, the fact is indisputable. I may be allowed to suggest as possible here an additional reason why this so uniformly occurs in the New Testament. It is, that the writers of the New Testament never meant to represent the transactions between God and man as a "compact or covenant" properly so called. They have studiously avoided it, and their uniform practice, in making this nice distinction between the two words, may show the real sense in which the Hebrew word rendered "covenant" - בּרית beriyt - is used in the Old Testament. The word which they employ - διαθήκη diathēkē - never means a compact or agreement as between equals.
It remotely and secondarily means a "will, or testament" - and hence, our phrase "New Testament." But this is not the sense in which it is used in the Bible - for God has never made a will in the sense of a testamentary disposition of what belongs to him. We are referred; therefore, in order to arrive at the true Scripture view of this whole matter, to the original meaning of the word - διαθήκη diathēkē - as denoting a "disposition, arrangement, plan;" then what is ordered, a law, precept, promise, etc. Unhappily we have no single word which expresses the idea, and hence, a constant error has existed in the church - either keeping up the notion of a "compact" - as if God could make one with people; or the idea of a will - equally repugnant to truth. The word διαθήκη diathēkē is derived from a verb - διατίθημι diatithēmi - meaning to place apart, to set in order; and then to appoint, to make over, to make an arrangement with. Hence, the word διαθήκη diathēkē - means properly the "arrangement or disposition" which God made with people in regard to salvation; the system of statutes, directions, laws, and promises by which people are to become subject to him, and to be saved. The meaning here is, that he would make a "new" arrangement, contemplating as a primary thing that the Law should be written in the "heart;" an arrangement which would be especially spiritual in its character, and which would be attended with the diffusion of just views of the Lord.
With the house of Israel - The family, or race of Israel, for so the word "house" is often used in the Scriptures and elsewhere. The word "Israel" is used in the Scriptures in the following senses:
(1) as a name given to Jacob because he wrestled with the angel of God and prevailed as a prince; Genesis 32:28.
(2) as denoting all who were descended from him - called "the children of Israel" - or the Jewish nation.
(3) as denoting the kingdom of the ten tribes - or the kingdom of Samaria, or Ephraim - that kingdom having taken the name Israel in contradistinction from the other kingdom, which was called "Judah."
on Hebrews 8 :8
8:8 But there is; for finding fault with them - Who were under the old covenant he saith, I make a new covenant with the house of Israel - With all the Israel of God, in all ages and nations. It is new in many respects, though not as to the substance of it: Being ratified by the death of Christ. Freed from those burdensome rites and ceremonies. Containing a more full and clear account of spiritual religion. Attended with larger influences of the Spirit Extended to all men. And, Never to be abolished. Jer 31:31, and c.